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Eighteen Principles
That Every Great Teacher Knows

From What Every Great Teacher Knows:
Practical Principles for Effective Teaching

by Richard A. Gibboney and Clark D. Webb
(pages 133-135)

Thinking and Experience

The principles in this section are intended to help teachers (and principals) explore the understanding of thinking and experience that underlies thoughtful and democratic teaching.

1. Every great teacher makes the cultivation of thinking in a decent and humane environment the primary goal of teaching. (See page 23)

2. Every great teacher values and encourages student questioning because questions encourage student and teacher thought. (See page 31)

3. Every great teacher understands that he/she cannot afford to underestimate what is involved in “knowing something” well. (See page 43)

4. Every great teacher realizes that productive experience results from doing something with foresight, with a purpose in mind, then reflecting on the consequences. (See page 50)

5. Every great teacher recognizes that thinking is not separated from doing something with a purpose in mind; that mind is in the doing, not outside it. (See page 56)

Teaching Objectives

The principles below apply to the goals for student learning set by administrators, teachers, and students.

6. Every great teacher knows that the learning objectives suggest the kind of environment needed to increase the capacities of the learner. (See page 63)

7. Every great teacher knows that the objectives value both what is to be learned and how it is to be learned. The quality of learning is critically dependent on how the objective is achieved. (See page 66)

8. Every great teacher knows that the immediate classroom objectives are made with larger, overarching aims in mind, that they free the student to attain the larger aims. (See page 72)

9. Every great teacher knows that most teaching objectives ought to make sense to the learner at the time of learning and that future learning is built best on what the student has already learned. (See page 77)

Subject Matter

The following principles pertain to the content, the subject matter, considered here apart from method for clarity.

10. Every great teacher knows that essential content is knowledge of general social significance that is relevant to all students whatever their abilities or interests. (See page 79)

11. Every great teacher knows that content must be related to the needs of the local and regional community. It is intended to improve the quality of future living for both the community and the individual. Content must illuminate significant social issues. (See page 79)

12. Every great teacher knows that content does not consist exclusively in information or data readily available in books, computers, or other media. Rather, good content is subject matter that assists learners in their inquiry and their attempt to create meaning. (See page 79)

Teaching Methods

The principles in this section encourage teachers and principals to consider some generic indicators of quality for professional and thoughtful teaching.

13. Every great teacher recognizes that good methods mean the creation of a total school/classroom environment for learning that cultivates the intelligence and sensitivities of learners, teachers, and administrators. (See page 89)

14. Every great teacher understands that direct attention to results for their own sake through rote learning short-circuits meaningful experience and closes down the growth of intelligence. Neither ends nor means can be hurried if one wishes to provoke thoughtful learning. (See page 89)

15. Every great teacher selects problems for thoughtful and meaningful analysis that are within the experience of the learner at the start of the learning, related to the problems of ordinary life, and require thought or reflection about the consequences of actions taken to solve the problem. (See page 101)

16. Every great teacher allows students to try out ideas from the curriculum in their present experience because, without this “trying out,” ideas do not move from the realm of the abstract or “school” to the students’ personal and community life. (See page 109)

17. Every great teacher knows that individuals must have an opportunity to consider and shape group ends. Learning activities should support educative group work, shared experience, conversation, and individual work. (See page 109)

18. Every great teacher understands where a series of lessons is heading, sees the logical order of the content, and tries to relate that content to the learner’s more fluid, partial view of it. (See page 117)


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